Volume 22, Number 27 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 13 - 19, 2009
Port may consider early ban on W.T.C. tour buses
By Julie Shapiro
When the World Trade Center site welcomes millions of visitors starting as soon as 2011, they might arrive not by tour bus but by PATH train.
Routing tour buses through New Jersey rather than Lower Manhattan is one idea the Port Authority is considering, Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, said this week.
“Underlying it is the idea of aggregating people elsewhere and getting them down [to the W.T.C.] through a means other than just relying on buses,” Daniels said. He said he strongly supports the idea, to improve the experience of both residents and memorial goers.
“There always will be bus traffic,” Daniels said, “and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be limited…. You can’t turn Lower Manhattan into a big parking lot.”
Daniels spoke at Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee Monday night. The committee members have repeatedly requested that the expected influx of tour buses on and after the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 not come all the way to Lower Manhattan. But Daniels’ comments were the first indication that the community’s idea is gaining traction with the Port.
When the W.T.C.’s vehicle security center opens, possibly in 2012, some of the buses will be able to fit there. The plan Daniels discussed was primarily for the interim period after the memorial opens but before the V.S.C. is finished.
Daniels declined to elaborate on the proposal, saying the Port Authority was leading the discussions, which also include the city Dept. of Transportation.
Port spokesperson Steve Coleman said only, “We are working with our stakeholders on the best way to accommodate bus traffic until the V.S.C. opens.”
Arts center design
Also at Monday night’s C.B. 1 meeting, board members got an update on the long-delayed W.T.C. performing arts center.
The city, which is now leading the planning effort, has said the PAC could not begin construction until at least 2014 and would not open until at least 2017. On Monday, Andrew Winters, director of the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects, said even those far-off dates could be too optimistic.
“There is not a more complicated building type in the world than a performing arts facility,” Winters said. “They’re more expensive than you want them to be, they take a longer time than you want them to and the design goals are very high. When they finally happen, everyone celebrates and no one remembers it was a very long process to get there.”
Winters also gave new details on the PAC design, which will have a 1,000-seat dance theater; a cafe spilling out onto 1 W.T.C.’s plaza; a secondary theater or banquet hall; and an outdoor amphitheater on the roof overlooking the memorial. Preliminary designs by architect Frank Gehry include trees planted on surfaces all the way up the building, continuing the visual theme of the memorial.
While the city is focusing on building the PAC at Greenwich and Vesey Sts., the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which committed $60 million to the project, is studying moving the PAC farther south to the 130 Liberty site, where its construction could begin earlier. Sayar Lonial, director of planning for the L.M.D.C., said he would have an answer on whether such a move is feasible by the C.B. 1 committee’s next meeting Dec. 14.
When the foundation building the 9/11 memorial and museum opened a preview site on Vesey St. at the end of August, one of their goals was to cut into the business of vendors around the World Trade Center site who peddle disaster-themed flipbooks.
So far, the preview site appears to be succeeding. Its top-selling item so far is a booklet, called “Remembering 9/11,” which was designed to compete with the street vendors. More than 4,000 copies have sold for $8.95 apiece, and the foundation is now reprinting them in English, Spanish and French, foundation president Joe Daniels said.
In all, the preview site has attracted more than 230,000 visitors who bought nearly $400,000 of merchandise. The profits, about 60 percent of the revenue, will go toward building the memorial and museum.
Daniels said Monday that he has not decided whether the museum will have to charge admission when it opens as soon as 2013. Ticket revenue may be necessary to cover the $50 million annual operating cost of the memorial and museum, but Daniels plans to seek private donations and government support first.
In the rush to get the memorial open for the 10-year anniversary of the attacks, the construction has been going round the clock. Gateway Plaza resident Bill Love said the high-pitched beeping of swiveling cranes frequently wakes him around 3 a.m. Daniels said he would look into the work schedule and potential noise mitigation.
Also this week, the Port Authority released its third-quarter W.T.C. milestone report, showing that it met 21 of its 24 goals from July through September. Accomplishments include installing 750 tons of steel for the memorial museum, erecting 12 jumbo steel columns for 1 W.T.C. and pouring 1,500 cubic yards of concrete for the vehicle security center.
But the Port did not finish installing the arches on the east-west connector and did not bid the structural steel package for the W.T.C. transportation hub. The Port Authority said it would mitigate the impact of these shortfalls so as not to delay the overall timetable of the projects.
The final missed milestone, the demolition of 130 Liberty St., lies in the purview of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., not the Port Authority.
The Port also set new milestones for the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010, marking the first time the Port has announced its specific construction goals nearly six months in advance. Milestones for the first quarter of 2010 include bringing steel for 1 W.T.C. up to the 20th floor level and extending the Liberty St. bridge south to make room for more work on the site.